Roy Harper is one of the greatest British songwriters of all time.
His guitar work has influenced many including Led Zepplelin and
Jethro Tull to name but a few.
At the age of 15, life at home with his devout Jehovah's Witness
mother became too much and he left, lying about his age to join
the RAF. He performed skiffle at camp concerts until he suffered
a nervous breakdown that led to his committal in the Lancaster Moor
Mental Institute. Roy escaped in his pyjamas through a bathroom
window and was later arrested in London, where he was sentenced
to jail for trying to climb the clock tower at St. Pancras Station.
During 1964, after getting out of prison, he toured the World,
busking in Africa, mainland-Europe and London for a year, before
graduating to the folk clubs where he earned the chance to record
his first album.
1966's "The Sophisticated Beggar", included "Committed",
a song which celebrated his mental condition. The album attracted
the attention of Columbia Records, for whom he went on to record
"Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith" in 1967.
With the release of his next album, "Folkjokeopus", in
1969, he was already gaining a reputation that earned him a contract
with EMI's Harvest Records. He recorded "Flat Baroque and Berserk"
in 1970, which included the track later covered by Kate bush and
Peter Gabriel, "Another Day".
1970 also saw Led Zeppelin pay tribute to Roy on their album, "Led
Zeppelin III" with the track "Hats Off To Harper"
and as a result 1971's "Stormcock" also featured Jimmy
Page as guest guitarist.
In a productive period, Roy found the time to write the script
and music for the film ‘Made’, in which he also starred
opposite Carol White. The soundtrack was also released in 1973 under
the title ‘Lifemask’.
In 1974, roy found chart success with the album "Valentine"
(UK number 27) and on Valentine's Day, February 14th, of the same
year, Roy performed at London’s Rainbow, backed by Jimmy Page
(Led Zeppelin), Keith Moon (The Who) and Ronnie Lane (The Rolling
Stones). Material from the concert was included on the live double
album "Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion" which also
appeared David Bedford, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), John Bonham
(Led Zeppelin) and Ronnie Lane (Small Faces).
In 1975, Roy appeared on Pink Floyd’s UK and US Number 1
hit "Wish You Were Here" album, singing "Have a Cigar"
before releasing his own "HQ" album. In promoting the
album though, too many excesses caught up with Roy and he collapsed
on stage, as a result for the time since 1966, the World went without
a Roy Harper release.
In 1977, Roy returned in fine form with the "Bullinamingvase"
album, which included guest vocals from Paul and Linda McCartney
on "One Of Those Days In England". The album reached UK
Number 25, representing Roy's most succesful period. Roy however
fell out with his record company who insisted he released more material
quickly to capitalise on his new-found fame. As a result, in 1978,
the compilation "Roy Harper 1970-1975" album was released
and much of Roy's other work remained un-released until 1988's rare
"Loney On The Bus" album - (The "Commercial Breaks"
album was eventually released in 1994).
In Harper 1970-1975’ (Harvest), kept his name in front of
the public whilst he was out of action and introduced him to many
new fans. ‘
In 1980 the acclaimed "The Unknown Soldier" album included
‘You’, a duet with Kate Bush who later thanked him on
the cover of her 1980 Number 1 "Never For Ever" album
for "holding onto the poet in his music".
In 1982, Roy harper split from Harvest and formed his own record
company (Public), releasing "Work Of Heart" which was
chosen as The Sunday Times 1982 Album Of The Year.
In 1985, Roy joined Awareness Records and recorded "Born in
Captivity". which included the acoustic demos for "Work
of Heart". In the same year, Roy collaborated with Jimmy Page
on the Top 20 album "Whatever Happened To Jugula" which
was released on the Charlatans' Beggar’s Banquet label.
Roy forgave EMI and re-signed for them in 1986, releasing the live
album "In Between Every Line", followed by 1988’s
"Descendants Of Smith", which he criticised as being 'ruined'
by the record company!
After such heavy criticism of EMI, Roy returned to Awareness Records
in 1990 with the brilliant "Once" album which featured
Dave Gilmour and Kate Bush. whilst, true to Harper-style, Roy failed
to receive sales success he did enjoy widespread media approval.
He also released the 2-track "Burn The World" album which
again failed to chart.
In 1991 Roy’s son Nick, a superb
guitarist and established act himself, became a part of Roy's touring
"Death Or Glory?", Roy's 1992 album release was perhaps
his most personal yet and was quickly followed by the re-release
of the entire back-catalogue on his own Science Friction label.
In 1998, Roy returned to the fore
with the brilliant new album "The Dream Society", again
winning rave reviews and attracting the interest of fellow musicians
without stealing the hearts and cash of the mass record-buying public.
The follow-up to "The Dream Society" came in 2000 with
"The Green Man", which again won widespread acclaim.
In 2001 Roy Harper hit his 60th birthday
and celebrated by playing to a sell-out Royal Festival Hall. The
concert was captured on a double CD and was later followed by the
compilation album "Today Is Yesterday", which included
his earliest recordings.
Roy Harper probably ranks alongside
The Bee Gees as Manchester's most productive and respected act since
the 1960's - if only he had their sales!
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